I always get some quiet moments when I first land in DC to sit and soak in the views of the Potomac and organize the thoughts in my head and the to do lists in front of me..
I think about scripting sessions and slides and logistics
Every year, without fail, I feel a wave of melancholy. I think about all the patients I've supported who never made it to a HOPE Summit. I think about my dad, my inspiration for the work that I do, and how much he may have benefited from coming to a HOPE Summit. I think about the survivors who were just here 12 months ago who are no longer alive.
The broody gray feeling of "What's it all for?" is real. You can't work with critically and chronically ill people and not feel that way sometimes. It hangs on me like a heavy coat in the moments before HOPE Summit starts when I feel a bit nervous and unsure of myself..
Then I see them. They show up with the biggest smiles on their faces. Some have badges that say "alumni" and they are celebrating another year survived. Their summit stories are similar. HOPE Summit empowered them with information and courage. Some walked away learning about treatment options that extended or saved their lives. They found community and friendships. Their lives were made better.
They are so happy to be here. The laughter and the excitement becomes contagious. I feed off their energy and become their biggest cheerleader and coach.
By the start of Summit I'm shedding the heavy coat of melancholy and picking up my pompoms.
It's a wild ride, but it's the best ride of my year.